Cross Connections


For the last nine lessons, we’ve been unpacking the fruit of the Spirit and seeing how each one connects to the cross. We really could have done this with any virtue of the Christian life (and, in the next nine chapters, we will). Every single thing that the Bible tells Christians to do, think, believe, or say is somewhere explicitly tied to the cross. The broad scope of this book– nine fruits of the Spirit, nine other virtues– is meant to demonstrate that.

But spending 150 pages meditating on how the cross motivates love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control raises an interesting question. If those nine virtues are fruits of the Holy Spirit– that is, traits that the Holy Spirit develops in believers– and are also meant to be motivated by the cross,
The way the Holy Spirit brings about transformation is by directing our attention to the cross of Christ. what’s the relationship between the Holy Spirit and the cross?

We could devote a whole chapter, even a whole book, to this question. But it’s not my purpose here to lay out a thorough theology of the Holy Spirit. I just want you to realize one simple thing: the way the Holy Spirit brings about transformation is by directing our attention to the cross of Christ.

in John 16, Jesus tells his disciples what the Holy Spirit will do after Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, when he is poured out on all those bought by the blood of Jesus:

He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. ~John 16:14

The Holy Spirit’s role is to glorify Jesus by taking everything about Jesus and declaring it to us. He takes Jesus’ love and declares it to us; he takes Jesus’ glory and declares it to us; he takes Jesus’ meekness and majesty and grace and power and holiness and humility and declares it to us. The Spirit doesn’t like the spotlight; what he loves is directing our attention and affection away from ourselves and onto Jesus. So in all these fruits of the Spirit we have studied, and in every other Spirit-wrought virtue in the Christian life, the way we grow is not by focusing on that virtue, or even by focusing on the Holy Spirit. No, the Spirit helps us do what he loves to do: fix our eyes on Christ and him crucified.

As the Holy Spirit directs the gaze of our hearts to Jesus, this is where transformation happens. That’s why, in many respects, all these Cross Connections chapters are nothing more than extended meditations on what Jesus has done for us. That’s exactly the point. Ponder these words from an old Puritan prayer, taken from the book The Valley of Vision, and make them your own:

O God the Holy Spirit,
Take the things of Christ and show them to my soul;
through thee may I daily learn more of his love, grace,
compassion, faithfulness, beauty;
Lead me to the cross and show me his wounds,
the hateful nature of evil, the power of Satan;
May I there see my sins as
the nails that transfixed him,
the cords that bound him,
the thorns that tore him,
the sword that pierced him.
Help me to find in his death the reality and immensity of his love.
Open for me wondrous volumes of truth in his, ‘It is finished.’
Increase my faith in the clear knowledge of
atonement achieved, expiation completed,
satisfaction made, guilt done away,
my debt paid, my sins forgiven,
my person redeemed, my soul saved,
hell vanquished, heaven opened,
eternity made mine.
O Holy Spirit, deepen in me these saving lessons.
Write them upon my heart, that my walk be
sin-loathing, sin-fleeing, Christ-loving.

This is how the Holy Spirit does his work in our hearts: by taking the cross of Christ and showing to our souls the reality and immensity of his love, until our lives overflow with transforming thankfulness. One of the ways he does that in his Word is by drawing connections, lines of motivation, from the great work that Christ did to the work he is doing in our hearts. Live your lives in these lines of motivation, and pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to direct you to the cross.

That’s why so many of our Cross Connections focused so much on Jesus and what he did. Sometimes it may have felt to you like the practical application was almost an afterthought; it was ten pages of Jesus and then one page of “What about me?” Again, that’s exactly the point. Transformation comes as we behold Jesus’ glory in the gospel. “We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). That’s how the Spirit transforms us: by fixing our eyes on Jesus.

As we conclude these nine lessons on the fruit of the Spirit and turn to nine other Spirit-wrought virtues and disciplines, let these words from a modern-day hymn by David Ward, adapted from that Puritan prayer, become your prayer:

O God the Holy Spirit,
Direct me to the cross
Where I can see the suffering
My waywardness has cost.
In Jesus’ death please show me
The power of my sin
And by his life convince me
This battle he will win.

O God the Holy Spirit,
Put Jesus on display;
Remind me how my Savior
Took all my guilt away.
My sins were all forgiven
And satisfaction made.
Atonement was completed;
My captive soul was saved.

O God the Holy Spirit,
Come deepen and impart
These saving, loving lessons
Upon my desperate heart,
That I might loathe my evil
And flee from Satan’s snares,
Then run to my Redeemer
And cast on him my cares.

May God the Holy Spirit direct you to the cross and put Jesus on display as he imparts these saving, loving lessons to your heart.